A look at the big issues for local leaders in 2017

The 2016-17 Katy City Council, from left: Durran Dowdle, James Mendez Jr. (seated), Mayor Fabol Hughes, Chuck Brawner, Steve Pierson (seated), J. Gary Jones

The 2016-17 Katy City Council, from left: Durran Dowdle, James Mendez Jr. (seated), Mayor Fabol Hughes, Chuck Brawner, Steve Pierson (seated), J. Gary Jones

Katy City Council

Big decisions made in 2016

  • New City Hall opening: The city of Katy dedicated its new City Hall building June 10. The $7.5 million facility is three stories tall, features three large clocks on a tower and is designed to be reminiscent of the area’s history when settlers from Galveston traveled north to homesteads on the Katy Prairie. The city funded the project through reserve funds and without a tax increase or a bond measure.

  • Budget and tax rate: The balanced $24.5 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17 that was passed by the Katy City Council at its Sept. 26 meeting includes a reduced property tax rate for residents, funds for 12 new positions and a 3 percent employee pay raise. The city is in its fourth year of a five-year property tax reduction plan, and the rate was set at 50.672 cents per $100 valuation for FY 2016-17. More than $15.5 million in budget expenditures was allocated for public safety.

  • Typhoon Texas opening: The Typhoon Texas opening kicked off Memorial Day weekend. Located next to Katy Mills, Typhoon Texas was constructed as an additional entertainment venue for local residents and to grow the area’s tourism options. The water park features 3 million gallons of water, nine water rides, 30 private cabanas, 2,000 lawn chairs, multiple dining options and employs 800 seasonal employees.

Top issues for 2017

  • Downtown renovations: In its quest to return downtown Katy to the feeling of an early 1900s town square, the city plans to make progress on its $6 million to $8 million downtown renovations project this year. The city began $3 million of street improvements to the area Jan. 16 and expects the various components of the project to be completed by October. Additionally, a public plaza will be constructed across from the new City Hall building that includes a civic center, a visitors center and an amphitheater. The demolition of part of the old City Hall building—which is where the civic center will go—is expected to take place in March or April, and construction of the plaza is projected to begin in late 2017.

  • Boardwalk progress: City officials said 2017 will be a key year for the Katy Boardwalk. The city will begin clearing land in late January and reviewing its designs on how the lake will interact with the rest of the project. The convention center, hotel and boardwalk are expected to enter an eight- to 12-month design phase; road infrastructure for the lofts is projected to begin in March or April; and Phase 1 of a three-phase process for the lake is expected to take place. While cost is still to be determined, city officials are aiming for an October 2020 opening for the convention center and hotel.

A question for Fabol Hughes, mayor

How does the city plan to address flooding issues in the wake of this past April’s weather events?
[The] city of Katy formed an advisory group headed by former state Representative Bill Callegari [R-Houston] to address flooding issues and have contracted with Costello Engineering to do a local as well as regional hydro[logy] study. They are working in tandem with the counties involved to come up with a mitigation plan.

Fort Bend County The Fort Bend County Commissioners Court is, from left: Grady Prestage, Judge Robert Hebert, Andy Meyers and James Patterson[/caption]

Fort Bend County

Accomplishments in 2016

  • Mobility: Work progressed on county roads, including Precinct 3’s FM 1093 from the Grand Parkway to just east of FM 1463, Bellaire Boulevard from Parkway Lakes Lane to Lakehead Lane, and Spring Green Boulevard from South Firethorne Road. Other projects include Brand Lane, Golfview Drive and Harlem Road.

  • Facilities: Construction began on several county projects. Featured projects include an expansion of the Justice Center parking garage to double its capacity and the construction of a 2-acre multipurpose fairgrounds livestock barn. The projects are expected to be completed in April and June, respectively.

  • Community: The county bought a facility for Neighborhood Centers to operate a Head Start program. Jones Creek Park was updated for a partnership with a YMCA summer camp program. A public defender’s office was established for indigent defense.

  • Missouri City Library: Comprehensive renovations began on the Missouri City Library, which is undergoing a dramatic transformation. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2018.

Top issues for 2017

  • Mobility: County officials plan to start construction on a variety of mobility projects. Those in Precinct 3 include FM 1093 from east of FM 1463 to James Road and Katy Gaston Road from FM 1093 to Summerset Ridge Lane. Other projects include Williams Way and Chimney Rock Boulevard.

  • Facilities: The county will build a new transit center that will consolidate transportation administration, operations, maintenance and bus parking into one location. Four Corners Community Center will be upgraded to feature 17,000 square feet of space that will include a gym, classroom and multipurpose space for community use and YMCA-partnered programs.

  • Community: The county will provide a new service annex for Precinct 2, and it will use a donation to provide new park space in Precinct 3.

  • Justice Center Expansion: County officials plan to begin work on the expansion of the Justice Center, adding a 98,000-square-foot addition that will connect all three levels of the existing Justice Center to accommodate district clerk, county clerk, and district attorney functions.

Fort Bend County Vincent Morales joined the court in January.[/caption]

New county commissioner

Former Rosenberg Mayor Vincent Morales was sworn in as a Fort Bend County commissioner Jan. 1, representing Precinct 1. Morales was elected over incumbent Richard Morrison in November.

Commissioner Morales said his priorities while in office include addressing mobility and transportation issues, developing a long-term, sustainable water plan as well as continuing to make Fort Bend County a business-friendly environment to attract new jobs and economic growth.

New Katy-area fire station

Construction of a third fire station in Fort Bend County Emergency Services District No. 2 begins in January. The district and the Willowfork Fire Department said the new station encompasses approximately 13,000 square feet and contains three apparatus bays, firefighter sleeping quarters, an exercise gym and office space for administration.

The $3.93 million station supports growth in northern Fort Bend County and  is located at 2700 Spring Green Blvd., Katy. The station will be in service by early 2018.

Harris County The 2016-17 Harris County Commissioners Court, from left: Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Mormon, Judge Ed Emmett, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle[/caption]

Harris County

Big decisions made in 2016

  • Astrodome resolution: Harris County approved a $105 million repurposing plan that will allow the Houston Astrodome to host events and provide additional parking for events at NRG Stadium.

  • Greenway expansions: The county added more than 4 miles to the Cypress Creek and Spring Creek greenways. Cypress Creek Greenway will include 40 consecutive miles of green space between at build-out.

  • $700 million road bondRoad projects were designed that were funded through the 2015 voter-approved bond.

Harris County Harris County Judge Ed Emmett[/caption]

Top issues for 2017

  • Law enforcement funding: Harris County has begun the process of funding body cameras for police officers.

  • Quality of life funding: The county expects to continue creating and improving trails and parks in the area  like the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve along Marshall Lake near Hwy. 249.

  • 2017 legislative session: The Harris County Commissioners Court will continue to monitor the 2017 Texas legislative session for relevant bills that will affect the ability to fund or service projects.

Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack[/caption]

Questions for  Steve Radack, Precinct 3 commissioner

How do you plan to handle the North Houston Association’s assertion that Harris County should use more toll road revenue on mobility projects?
As it’s going right now, we are just continuing to spend about the same [amount of] money we have on mobility [in the past]. It doesn’t look to me like you’re going to see [other] projects canceled and then [have] more mobility money available.

How do you envision the Astrodome renovations project most benefiting the residents of Harris County?
It can actually become a revenue-maker for the county. Revenue, in my opinion, beats taxes any day.


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Newk's Eatery has closed its location in the Katy area. (Courtesy Newk's Eatery)
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Fort Bend County's Mobile Health Unit will administer vaccinations in portions of the county that are economically disadvantaged or lack access to transportation, said County Judge KP George. (Screenshot courtesy Fort Bend County)
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After serving up chicken in College Station for nearly three decades, Layne’s Chicken Fingers is opening its first location in the Houston area in Katy. (Courtesy Layne's Chicken Fingers)
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